Saturday, September 06, 2008

Happy Anniversary American Romance!

Readers, please help us welcome Johanna Raisanen, Associate Editor for American Romance. She's joining us today to kick off our 25th Anniversary Celebration!

Twenty-five years is pretty special. A lot has happened in that time here at Harlequin and with HAR. But along with the changes, some things endure. We’ve noticed readers are drawn to certain themes, characters, and settings, and want to see them over and over. Let’s start with setting because that is one of the key elements that defines HAR novels. While all settings are welcome, the western states are the ones that seem to appeal to our readers the most. Whether it’s the Hill Country in Texas, the Grand Tetons of Wyoming, or the big blue skies of Montana, the land of the cowboy reigns. I don’t think it’s too hard to figure out why, either. These settings represent freedom and wide-open space and adventure, and the characters who inhabit these places are so appealing because they are strong, independent, and self-reliant.

The western setting leads me to the next constant in AR. Ladies, you know what I’m talking about—the cowboy. Those swaggering, horse-riding, Stetson-wearing heroes so many of us sigh over. On a personal note, I’ll confess that for years I didn’t understand the appeal of the cowboy. Living in the city, I had never seen one except in old western movies. Then I was in Vegas one year during the NFR, the National Finals Rodeo, and there were cowboys everywhere. Well, let’s just say, YUM! Hmm. What was I talking about… Oh yes. The enduring appeal of the cowboy hero. These rugged, handsome men are the charmers, the bad boys, and the white knight all rolled up into one. What’s not to love?

Thinking about cowboys brings me to what goes on in the bedroom, and the sometimes unexpected results of what takes place between a man and a woman…. That’s right, I’m talking about babies! All American Romances are about family, and what says family better than adorable babies. I think part of the enduring appeal of babies, kids and pregnant heroines is how they reflect the changes in the hero. The most alpha-est hero can turn to mush when up against a helpless baby. The most rugged cowboy turns protective of a pregnant woman. The baddest of the bad boys can be brought to his knees by a little girl in pigtails. Family, babies, kids. And a man who takes responsibility for his family is the sexiest hero in my book.

American Romance is really about how our families are our shelter in the storm, our armor against an ever-changing world. Family is what makes us stronger, even when individual members drive us crazy. The heroes and heroines in HAR novels are looking for their place in the world, and often that means within a family setting. Think of all the stories of single parents finding a second chance at love, of blended families, extended families—you’ll find them in American Romance. Why? Because family is what matters most.

There are many wonderful stories in American Romance, and all of them celebrate the joys of family, the warmth of community, and the magic of finding your true hero. So, raise a virtual glass with me and let’s toast to twenty-five more years of Love, Home & Happiness with American Romance!

Johanna Raisanen
Associate Editor
American Romance

Friday, September 05, 2008

It’s salsa time!

This past month my husband and I tried something new—took salsa lessons. We both enjoy dancing. Especially me. (Just ask anyone at the annual Harlequin party.:-)) But we’re not a good dance team—he can’t lead and I’m terrible at following. Because of this problem, until recently he wouldn’t even consider dance lessons. Thanks to a change of heart (and a push from our oldest daughter, a salsa fanatic), he agreed to try salsa.

Our three private, one-hour lessons were taught by a woman with amazing patience. After the first lesson we could execute a few basic steps and turns. By the third, we'd learned several more. We still need to work on the getting the rhythm down. As we practice at home, we realize we’ve already forgotten some of what we learned. Which is why we'll probably take more lessons, both private and group. Our daughter and our teacher assure us that the group lesson is a great way to learn, because you get to dance with a number of partners.

What do salsa and novel writing have in common? Beats me! No really, there is a connection. Stretching your skills and/or challenging yourself to try something new is never a bad thing, and colors all areas of life. Plus, dancing generates all sorts of story ideas, those what ifs that demand exploration. What if a dark, sensual but for some reason shy man becomes an alpha male when he salsas? Or a quiet, unnoticed woman changes drastically when… Think of the possibilities.

Until next time and wishing you all rhythm and a good time on the dance floor,
Ann Roth

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Watching the Squirrels Go By

I’ve been finishing up a book over the last two weeks, and attempting to write some proposals. Consequently, I’ve been in my office a lot. A whole lot. A few years ago, my son wanted to change rooms-he wanted my basement office in a bad way. Since it meant so much to him, I switched, thinking sunlight might be a nice change of pace. It has been. But it has also induced a lot of staring out the window at our backyard. Usually, there’s not much to see.

But in the late summer, I often find myself staring out the window and seeing how my husband’s garden is doing. Last summer, he grew a giant pumpkin. This year, we’ve got tons of watermelons, strawberries, and a bumper tomato crop. I haven’t told Tom, but I’ve had a lot of fun watching a certain squirrel terrorize his tomatoes.

This squirrel eats tomatoes the way I eat a box of chocolate-with one bite out of each. It’s a bad habit. Somehow I convince myself that I’m only going to eat a whole piece if the chocolate’s really good. So if I bite into a piece that has some of that awful strawberry filling, I hastily move on to the next, just to see if I might get lucky and find caramel or pecans.

Anyway, that squirrel must be of the same mindset, because each morning around nine am, I see him stealthily scamper on our back fence, do a mission-impossible worthy dive into the tomato patch, and eagerly chomp.

This is driving my husband nuts. Every time he finds a tomato with just one bite out of it, he picks it up and places it along the perimeter of the garden-kind of the way tribesmen must have left out shrunken heads for unwary trespassers. Tom is sure the sight is going to either stop the squirrels or convince them to take two bites instead of just one.

It doesn’t. Day after day, the pesky guy goes in between the fallen fruit and grabs a tomato still on the vine, clings to it like a trapeze artist, and bites. It’s impressive.

Lately, things have gotten worse. The squirrel has a friend. Just yesterday, I saw two squirrels out in the garden, rummaging and pillaging Tom’s beautiful beefsteak tomatoes.

They were entertaining enough to make me forget for a good thirty minutes that I have work to do. Watching Tom scurry out to the garden, pick up those poor tomatoes and look mad as all get out has been pretty entertaining, too.

I just hope those squirrels don’t figure out a way to get to the watermelon anytime soon. Now that would be a tragedy.


Tuesday, September 02, 2008

August winner!!!

This month's winner is Cheri6268!!!!!! Congratulations!!! To get your free, autographed books, please contact Marin Thomas, Jackie Diamone, Lisa Childs and Cathy McDavid through their websites.

Tell all your friends to visit us. To win, simply comment and your name is entered in our drawing.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Summer Entertainment

Ever notice how most types of entertainment operate by season? Movies have summer blockbusters and special Christmas openings. Mainstream publishers offer summer beach reads and fall lists.

But not us Harlequin category novelists. Our books come out every month, season after season. They’re always brand new, with no reruns.

I particularly appreciate that fact this time of year. Since the Olympians finished their flipping, relaying and discus-tossing, there is absolutely nothing to watch on television. Except, of course, endless promotions telling us what great stuff the networks are going to air in another month or so, when their fall season begins.

Thanks a lot.

While I enjoy catching up on my reading, there are nights when my husband and I are so tired, we just want to collapse and watch a suspenseful, funny show with good values and characters we love.

Earlier this summer, a friend loaned us a couple of delightful – but relatively short -- series, the British “Rosemary and Thyme” (two women gardeners who solve murder mysteries) and the Canadian “Slings and Arrows,” about a Shakespearian theater company on the skids. Both provided lots of fun, but ended too quickly.

Then I remembered a great series from the ‘90s with action, humor, heart, and a breathtaking hero. Oh, yes, and a really cute dog. So I ordered the DVD.

I hope some of you remember, and treasure, “Due South.” It stars the appealing Paul Gross, who also starred in “Slings and Arrows.” Now, when my eyes blur from reading and my husband wants to sit and hold my hand, we enjoy the antics of the transplanted Mounty in Chicago all over again.

So if my next hero looks just the tiniest bit like the handsome, dark-haired actor, I hope you’ll enjoy him – no matter what the season.